Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders
Plot: A shy ladies' companion, staying in Monte Carlo with her stuffy employer, meets the wealthy Maxim de Winter. She and Max fall in love, marry and return to Manderley, his large country estate in Cornwall. Max is still troubled by the death of his first wife, Rebecca, in a boating accident the year before. The second Mrs. de Winter clashes with the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, and discovers that Rebecca still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley.
The first film Alfred Hitchcock made in Hollywood and the only one that won a Best Picture Oscar.
Because Laurence Olivier wanted his then-girlfriend Vivien Leigh to play the lead role, he treated Joan Fontaine horribly. This shook Fontaine up quite a bit, so Alfred Hitchcock decided to capitalize on this by telling her EVERYONE on the set hated her, thus making her shy and uneasy - just what he wanted from her performance.
Due to the success of this film in Spain, the specific jackets that Joan Fontaine wears during the film began to be known as "rebecas". The word "rebeca" is still used nowadays to refer to this item of clothing.
Mrs. Danvers is hardly ever seen walking; she seems to glide. Alfred Hitchcock wanted her to be seen solely from Joan Fontaine's character's anxious point of view, and this effect tied in with her fear about Mrs. Danvers appearing anytime unexpectedly.
In order to maintain the dark atmosphere of the book, Alfred Hitchcock insisted that the film be shot in black and white.
As per Alfred Hitchcock's instructions, Judith Anderson plays Mrs. Danvers while rarely blinking her eyes.
Despite scouring most of America, and New England in particular, David O. Selznick was unable to find a suitable location to represent Manderley, so he had to resort to a miniature instead, albeit a highly convincing one.
Alfred Hitchcock chose very carefully the right lettering for the right characters, if we have to watch a handwriting analysis of the several letters shown in the movie: -Mrs. Van Hooper is authoritative (large T bars), sexually stimulated (thick Y and F loops), obsessive (loopholes in E and N), unwilling to being commanded (Independence loophole in P), and rude (thick tracks in general). -Maxim is very reflexive (large inter-word spacing), reserved (large inter-line spacing) and self-underrated (T bars very low). -Favell is self-overrated, brutal and impulsive (big R, Brutality loophole, short inter-word spacing). (According to the Marchesan Handwriting Analysis Method).
Alfred Hitchcock frequently clashed with David O. Selznick over the director's habit of cutting in the camera. Rather than give the producer several complete shots of each set-up so the film could be assembled in a variety of ways, Hitchcock had the final cut already worked out before shooting and filmed only as much of each long shot and close-up as he planned to use in the film.
Filming started five days after the United Kingdom entered World War II. This proved particularly troublesome to Alfred Hitchcock and the film's largely British cast.
Daphne Du Maurier considered the film to be the best of all the adaptions of her work.
Alfred Hitchcock can be seen walking past a phone booth just after Jack Favell (George Sanders) makes a call in the final part of the movie.
While in the movie Maxim does not mean to kill Rebecca, in the book he kills her on purpose.
Although Producer David O. Selznick wanted this film to stay faithful to the novel, Alfred Hitchcock made several changes in this film to increase the mystery and the suspense. In the novel, Mrs. Danvers is the mother figure who raised Rebecca from youth, is the source of the evil that existed in Rebecca. In the film Mrs. Danvers is much younger and her past isn't revealed, while Rebecca is "the source of evil that exists in Mrs. Danvers." The film added the raining right before entering Maxim's home Manderley and meeting Mrs. Danvers. The raining made the Second Mrs. cold and shivering when she meets Mrs. Danvers. In the novel, the Second Mrs. travels with Maxim to London to meet Dr. Baker. In order to increase the tension and the suspense in the film, Hitchcock let Second Mrs. stay at Manderley instead of traveling with Maxim de Winter to meet Dr. Baker (Leo G. Carroll). Instead of Second Mrs., Frank Crawley travels with Maxim de Winter to London to meet Dr. Baker in the film. In the novel, Second Mrs. is the one who is having an uncomfortable feeling while traveling back to Manderley with Maxim in the end. But in the film, Maxim de Winter is the one who is having the uncomfortable feeling while driving back to Manderley where Second Mrs. is waiting. In the novel, it is uncertain what happened to Mrs. Danvers in the end. But in the film, Mrs. Danvers is destroyed along with Manderley at the end.
David O. Selznick wanted the smoke from the burning Manderley to spell out a huge R. Alfred Hitchcock thought the touch lacked any subtlety. When Selznick was preoccupied by Gone with the Wind (1939), Hitchcock was able to replace the smoky R with the burning of a monogrammed lingerie case. He also edited the picture in the camera, a method of filmmaking that didn't allow Selznick the opportunity to re-edit the picture.
Ronald Colman was originally cast as Maxim DeWinter, but dropped out due to Production Code issues about a main character getting away with murder.